Court remands 4 oil & gas directors over alleged £2.6bn fraud

The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the remand of four directors of Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an alleged £2.6 billion fraud.

The order, given by Justice Mohammed Liman, was sequel to the arraignment of the directors alongside the firm on a seven-count charge bordering on the alleged offence by the anti-graft agency.

The four directors, Abayomi Kukoyi (Trading under the name and style of Gladstone Kukoyi & Associates), Prince Kingsley Okpala, Prince Chidi Okpalaeze and Prince Emmanuel Okpalaeze, denied the alleged offence.

The anti-graft agency, in a charge, marked FHC/L/46c/2020, brought against the four directors alongside the oil company and one Prince Isaac Okpala (now deceased) were alleged to have committed the offences between 1994 and 2007.

The directors were alleged to have fraudulently procured a cheque from a foreign bank in the sum of £2.556 billion, under the pretext that it was meant to construct three petrochemical refinery complexes in Nigeria.

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They were also alleged to have, sometime in April 2007, forged a statement of account in the name of Goldmatic Limited, which was used to obtain the sum of £2.159, 221, 313.54.

The four directors were also accused of altering a bank cheque dated December 29, 1994, in the sum of £2.556 billion, made payable to Gladstone Kukoyi & Associates, for the purpose of constructing three petrochemical refineries in Nigeria.

According to the EFCC prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the offences are contrary to, and punishable under sections 1(2), 1(2)(a) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Law of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.

The offences are also said to be contrary to and punishable under sections 509, 467(2)(I) and 468 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The four directors pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Following their plea of not guilty, the prosecutor asked the court to remand them in the custody of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS), while also asking for a trial date.

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The four directors, through their different lawyers, informed the court of their bail application.

However, Justice Liman adjourned the matter till February 19 for the hearing of their bail applications, while ordering that they are remanded in the custody of the NCS

Afterwards, EFCC’s lawyer sought for a trial date as well as a separate date for the hearing of the defendants’ bail motion.

Responding, defence lawyers, Olasubomi Adegbemisoye and Bashir Ramon drew the court’s attention to the bail motions of their clients, which they said would be served on the prosecution.

They equally urged the court to order their clients’ remand in EFCC’s custody owing to their state of health.

After listening to the submissions of parties, Justice Liman adjourned the matter to February 19 for trial and hearing of the defendants’ bail motion. He also directed that the defendants should be remanded in EFCC’s custody.

Some of the counts against the defendants read as thus:

“That you Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited, Prince Isaac Okpala (now deceased), Abayomi Kukoyi, Prince Kingsley Okpala, Prince Chidi Okpalaeze, Prince Emmanuel Okpalaeze and Princess Gladys Okpalaeze (now at large) on or about 29th December 1994 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court fraudulently procured a Barclays Bank cheque dated 29th December 1994 in the sum of £2,556,000,000.00 made payable to Gladstone Kukoyi and Associates, purporting the said cheque to be meant for foreign investment in the construction of 3 refineries and petrochemical complex in Nigeria, when you knew that the said cheque to be false and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(2) (a) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 and punishable under the same Section.

“That you Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited, Prince Isaac Okpala (now deceased), Abayomi Kukoyi, Prince Kingsley Okpala, Prince Chidi Okpalaeze, Prince Emmanuel Okpalaeze and Princess Gladys Okpalaeze (now at large) on or about the 10th April 2007 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court with intent to defraud, forged a certain document to wit: statement of account in the name of Goldmatic Limited purportedly issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria with Account Number: 10382175 wherein you falsely claimed that the Central Bank had in its custody, the sum of £2,159, 221, 313. 54 in favour of Goldmatic Limited and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 467 (2) (I) of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same Section.”

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